Dear Members of the University Community,
As the spring semester draws to an end, we turn our attention to what comes next—Fall 2020.
Before anything else, I am happy to announce that we are planning to open the doors of The Catholic University of America for on-campus instruction and residential life this fall. Even if we can’t resume life exactly as we knew it just eight weeks ago, we can take the necessary steps to deliver a fully open campus at the earliest possible opportunity. This is where we are focusing our energies.
To get us there, we have launched the Roadmap 20/21 Task Force to navigate us through the next academic year. The Task Force has already been holding daily meetings throughout the crisis, resolving issues as they arise and ensuring that the campus community is fully informed. The addition of working groups and a new name reflects the group’s focus on working toward the future success of Catholic University.
The return of our students to campus will be preceded by a phased reintroduction of our faculty and staff, many of whom have been working from home. We are taking precautions to keep our campus as safe as possible. These include attention to social distancing, aggressive cleaning protocols, face coverings where appropriate, and sneeze guards at various places around campus.
Our decisions will necessarily observe CDC and DC government guidelines. We will also work with Student Health Services to implement common sense and clinical measures to maintain a healthy campus environment, including appropriate testing and contact tracing protocols. Our primary concern is the safety of our community.
Bringing students to live on campus requires thorough planning. In conjunction with the other universities in the Washington Metropolitan Area, we are working with District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland officials on common approaches. We are actively pursuing the feasibility of COVID testing and tracing capabilities, adapting our residence halls to comply with CDC and District guidelines, and implementing additional cleaning procedures. We are developing protocols for isolation of students who test positive for COVID while living in community.
Current District guidelines limit the size of gatherings to 10 people. This would make large classes impossible, and affect athletics, artistic performances, and liturgies. While we expect the limits to be relaxed in time, we are looking at ways to reorganize class offerings (e.g. distributing students within the classroom, expanding our class day, offering Saturday classes) to ensure safe practices and compliance with government guidelines. Our student affairs and campus ministry teams will develop strategies to foster community, not only within the residence halls, but also through campus activities, athletics, and faith-based programs.
Our experience this spring has helped us understand better the advantages of remote instruction capability. We are making immediate investments in video equipment and virtual technology to enable us to offer all our courses both in person and online, if necessary. This will give students the flexibility to attend classes remotely in the event they, or a professor, need to isolate due to COVID-19 exposure.
No words can express my gratitude to faculty and staff, our students and their families, for their patience and positive attitude these past months. Guiding this University through a global pandemic is not something we ever foresaw, when we launched our professional and student careers here. We have learned a lot about who we are as people, as professionals, and as a community.
I am fully confident in our ability not only to return to campus, but also to build up Catholic University in a way that protects the safety of all. The next academic year will be filled with unique challenges, and I wouldn’t want to attempt to make my way through it without our Roadmap 20/21 team, and the valuable contributions of each one of you.